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President George W. Bush
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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Florizelle B. Liser
Assistant United States Trade Representative

July 13, 2004

Florizelle Liser

Hi, I'm Florie Liser. Today the President signed The AGOA Acceleration Act of 2004 which fulfills a promise the President made to extend the benefits of AGOA for the people of Africa. It is the latest step in a continuing bipartisan effort to build and improve on the success of this extraordinary initiative. I'm happy to take your questions.

Cary, from South Africa writes:
Ms. Liser,I read in your biography that you lead trade efforts in sub-Saharan Africa. Does this mean that not as much effort is focused on trade with the rest of Africa? Or do you just concentrate on sub-Saharan trade efforts?

Thank you and all my best.

Florizelle B. Liser
In USTR's Office of African Affairs, we focus on the forty-eight countries of sub-Saharan Africa. We are working to expand trade and investment under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and are currently negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia. This FTA would be the first ever free trade agreement between the U.S. and any country in sub-Saharan African countries.

The USTR's Office of Europe and the Mediterranean deals with North Africa. In case you did not know, we recently concluded negotiation of a free trade agreement with Morocco.

Meredith, from Atlanta writes:
What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

Florizelle B. Liser
I most enjoy the opportunity to work with Americans and Africans -- both in the public and private sectors -- to use trade as a tool for development. Trade has increasingly become a powerful engine for economic growth and poverty alleviation in many African nations. Being even a small part of that is very rewarding.

Dave, from Las Vegas writes:
What immediate goals do you wish to follow through with regarding the development of Africa?

Florizelle B. Liser
Now that President Bush has signed the AGOA Acceleration Act of 2004 extending duty-free access to the U.S. until 2015 for nearly all the products Africans produce and export, our major goal is to assist as many of the AGOA-eligible countries take full advantage of the bill. In addition to providing access to the U.S. market, we will need to work with the Africans to enhance their productive and human capacity and develop the infrastructure needed to be more competitive in the global trading system.

Lorna, from Michigan writes:
Why did the President have to sign the "AGOA Acceleration Act" if the current AGOA Act was working so well? I don't understand.

Florizelle B. Liser
AGOA has indeed been successful, but sub-Saharan African nations still play only a small part in the global trading system and in the huge U.S. market. As one provision of AGOA was set to expire on September 30th, so it was important to extend AGOA now.

The bill that the President signed, The AGOA Acceleration Act, will provide a sound basis on which to build further success. We hope that it will foster increased investment, expand trade, increase jobs, and improve opportunities for both Africans and Americans. AGOA has indeed been successful, but sub-Saharan African nations still play only a small part in the global trading system and in the huge U.S. market.

Abby, from Bend, Oregon writes:
Have you ever been to Africa? Describe your first impressions and the emotional impact of that experience.

Florizelle B. Liser
I have been fortunate to travel to many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and look forward to visiting all of the nearly 50 countries for which my office is responsible. My first impressions of Africa were of its vast beauty, diversity, and potential. With its enormous natural resources and the skills and talent of its 700 million people, I am touched each time I travel there not only by the poverty and development challenges, but also by the signs of a brighter future for Africa.

Erin, from New Orleans, LA writes:
What products do we trade with Africa and how much of each?

Florizelle B. Liser
Two-way trade between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa rose in 2003 as both exports and imports increased. U.S. exports rose 15 percent to almost $7 billion in 2003. Top export categories were machinery and parts ($1.7 billion), aircraft and parts ($823.7 million), cereal ($642.1 million), vehicles and parts ($581.1 million), and electrical equipment and parts ($411.2 million). U.S. imports from sub-Saharan Africa rose 43 percent to $25.6 billion in 2003. The four largest import categories were mineral fuels ($17.6 billion), precious stones and metals ($2.1 billion), apparel ($1.5 billion), and vehicles and parts ($776.8 million).

Robert, from South Dakota writes:
Will there be increased efforts to include more African countries to trade with the United States?

Florizelle B. Liser
The potential beneficiaries of the AGOA are the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Of these, 37 countries meet AGOA’s eligibility criteria and may take advantage of the trade benefits the Act offers. To be eligible for AGOA benefits, a country must make continual progress in establishing a market-based economy, eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment, establishing rule of law, combating corruption, protecting worker and human rights, and reducing poverty. We will not neglect the ineligible countries who have expressed an interest in AGOA; we will continue to work with them to encourage progress in the areas required for eligibility. And because AGOA has an annual review of countries to review progress on reforms, it is our hope and expectation that we will be able to place additional countries on the eligible list in the future.

Jacques, from Paris, France writes:
Why did the US Administration refuse to extend the third-country fabric derogation to Mauritius?

Florizelle B. Liser
Only lesser developed countries can use AGOA’s special third country fabric provision. These countries are defined as having a per capita GNP of less than $1,500 per year. Mauritius is well above that limit. Other sub-Saharan African countries not able to use the third country fabric provision because they are above the income threshold are: South Africa, Gabon, and Seychelles.

Kevin, from Tallahassee, Florida writes:
Please pardon my ignorance on this important issue However,my question is simply how does the United States and Africa, or any two countries involved in free trade, benefit from such dealings? As a republican, I want to know why free trade is such an important issue.Thank you.

Florizelle B. Liser
As Ambassador Robert Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative, has said, “Freer trade helps promote prosperity, greater productivity, higher wages, and more choices at lower prices for families and businesses.” This is true for the United States as well as for its trading partners around the world, including in Africa.

Florizelle Liser
Thanks for the questions. Please visit our website ( to get more information.

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